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Thanks to the unprecedented success that is World of Warcraft, we're up to our necks in "theme park" style MMORPGs. Even Ragnarok Online 2 looks to be copping World of Warcraft's look and central gameplay mechanic. That's a real blow for us MMORPG veterans who were around when the three major players in town were Ultima Online, Everquest, and Asheron's Call, because there was this concept of virtual world sandbox that we wanted to see from Ultima Online and somewhat in Asheron's Call that has been somewhat buried under people trying to ape WoW's success.
Fortunately, Age of Wushu shows us the alternative, a non-theme park game, a virtual world game where you can wander freely and do whatever without levels dictating where you can be. There's so few games of its type that this alone is a good start.
Now, Ultima Online was great, but it was also a complete an utter gankfest that was hemmorhaging players like mad until the developers threw in the towel and made a second non-PvP instance, and only nostalgia colored glasses as thick as hockey pucks can obscure the unbearable darkness that early Ultima Online's naive baby steps into a fledling young genre of an open-world graphical online RPG with open PvP.
Yet, there was this certain semblance of old school Ultima Online cool that many of us wanted to see, and some games have tried to bring that back: Darkfall Online, Shadowbane, and so on. For varying reasons, they have not gone over very well. I think one of the major problems with these attempts to open up the PVP have largely fallen flat because the developers just turned on the "kill other people" flag and just assumed everything would work out for the best... and, like an overoptimistic anarchist, it of course goes simply pear shaped and the sheep fled the premises leaving a bunch of bored wolves. (Shadowbane actually had a pretty good accountability system, pity about the technical issues - the servers were not stable enugh to handle huge conflicts, and I think that was its worst problem.)
But this is not about Open PvP, this is about the idea of a virtual sandbox world that tries to explore the potential of an online space in ways that were once interesting back in Ultima Online, and I think only Age Of Wushu and Fallen Earth have really done that, with player-driven economies meeting Open-PvP... and Fallen Earth's combat (the last time I played it, which was around release) is rather overly rudimentary (though I hear they've been working on it).
On top of that, only Age Of Wushu really has the balls to do what few open-PvP games do and actually hold players accountable, to the point where their characters do time in jail for being unapologetic gankers. When there's good enough of an accountability system in shape, even the "sheep" will be happy to play in an open-PvP world. In fact, I am one, so there you have it. I don't mind ganks, I just want some rhyme and reason to it and for people to not get away with griefing just 'cuz. In Age of Wushu, the end game is a nice organized school vrs school and guild vrs guild thing like many Eastern MMORPGs (e.g. Aion, Lineage), and that's where open-PvP belongs in this sheep's opinion (that, or organized PvP ladder events).
TL;DR: Basically, Age of Wushu is in a good position to be the best open-PvP sandbox game there is right now. I think the combat mechanic is actually quite interesting too, with quite a lot of variables involved and a balance of a sort.
It's a shame, then, that there's so many strange little issues with it.
So here's a game that has all these cool, sophisticated features, is more ambitious in its virtual world and PvP scope than 99.5% of its competition, and then it's brought down by this blinding lack of refinement in its presenation. I'm trying to get into Age of Wushu, but it's proving difficult for those reasons and others.